Jeremy Johnson, who is at the center of a scandal that forced former Attorney General John Swallow from office, is alleging that Swallow and federal lawyers conspired to have him arrested and then used that criminal case to try to pressure the St. George businessman into settling a regulatory lawsuit.
Johnson, in a filing this week in the federal lawsuit he faces in Las Vegas, said Swallow, Federal Trade Commission attorney Collot Guerard and federal prosecutor Brent Ward worked together to arrest him on a trumped-up charge and made it appear he was fleeing to Costa Rica.
Guerard then used the criminal case, according to the filing, to try to pressure Johnson to settle a massive FTC lawsuit, which alleges he defrauded thousands of consumers.
Johnson is representing himself in the lawsuit since the court, in 2011, agreed to an FTC request that Johnson’s assets and those of his I Works company be seized. As a result, Johnson says he has no money for attorneys.
Johnson and four others also face 86 criminal counts in Salt Lake City’s federal court related to I Works. The embattled businessman, who is under a gag order not to discuss his case, has a court-appointed attorney, Ron Yengich, in the criminal matter.
The U.S. attorney’s office is also restricted by a court order on what it can say about Johnson’s criminal case. The FTC did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment on the filing.
But Swallow’s attorney, Rod Snow, said Wednesday his client was not involved in any decision to arrest Johnson.
The filing provided no evidence of Swallow’s involvement in the criminal case. Johnson previously asserted that Swallow told him Ward had been offered a job in the Utah attorney general’s office and that the two were friends.
Ward has said he never sought a job from Swallow and would not have accepted one if offered. He also said he and Swallow were not friends.
Johnson’s filing also alleges that, while in the Davis County Jail after his arrest in June 2011, he was called by Guerard, who sought to induce him to settle the FTC case. Prosecutors have acknowledged that contact was improper.
Johnson alleges other improper conduct by government attorneys, as well, such as inducing witnesses to sign statements they later recanted. The filing cites testimony by Internal Revenue Service Agent Jamie Hipwell that no separate investigation was done before Johnson’s arrest and that agents and prosecutors relied on evidence gathered by the FTC.